Admit it. You’d like to sit down for a private chat with someone in HR,…
John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker LLC
This is the article in every issue that lets you have a private discussion with someone in HR about how things really work. In previous issues, we’ve explored questions about breaking through to Partner, and how best to talk dollars at the time of an interview.
For this article, we rang up an HR professional who works inside a BV boutique in the Upper Midwest. The confidentiality of our interviewee is important to the candor of the answers you will read. Send in your questions for our rotating panel of experts.
Q. It can’t be that uncommon that someone, sometime, will be truly unhappy at their current employer. If that’s the case, what does the “smart” employee do?
A. The smart employee would speak to his or her immediate manager, or in the BV/LS industry, the engagement manager. Often, people don’t take that initial step and they harbor some type of unhappiness or resentment. It’s just not healthy. When under pressure, people have a tendency to lose perspective and can harbor resentment over things that can be fixed very quickly – technology issues, supply issues, process inefficiencies, and administrative support. If these types of issues aren’t addressed immediately, larger problems are created. Communication is key and is always encouraged.
Q. Does your response differ, based on the source of unhappiness: co-worker, Partner, nature of job, etc?
A. Yes. If it’s the person they’re reporting to that they’re unhappy with, I would recommend going to a neutral party that he/she is comfortable speaking with such as another engagement manager, a peer of the person they are struggling with, or to HR. The bottom-line is that they need to find somebody with whom to talk. People really are interested in solving problems and providing a good work environment.
Q. Coming forward to someone in HR might look risky to an employee. What would you say to that employee?
A. In a professional services firm, part of HR’s role is to foster an appropriate, healthy, challenging and stimulating environment. Maintaining the employee’s integrity and confidentiality is priority for HR. If an employee doesn’t feel comfortable speaking to HR, there may be larger organizational and cultural issues at hand.
Q. Would you prefer that the employee also approaches you with ideas for how the situation could be resolved?
A. Absolutely. The employee is living the situation all day long, and they are the best person to assess and recommend a solution to issue. It can actually be unproductive for an employee to express problems and concerns without having a solution. HR and/or management can implement a solution. Management welcomes solutions. It shows that the employee is interested in making their work situation better, that they are interested in their career long term, and they are interested in improving the organization as a whole. It’s an ownership mentality and shows initiative and motivation.
Q. What is the situation/problem that is, consistently, the most difficult to resolve?
A. Personality and/or work style differences. Often, employees work with different engagement managers. It’s very difficult to change the core of who someone is, and so often the solution for personality problems isn’t about change or implementing a solution, but rather about understanding differences and having patience.
Q. Is this resolution process something that a candidate could inquire about during an interview? How can they best articulate that question?
A. Potential employees can ask questions about the culture of the organization and about organizational practices. Good questions to ask are: Does the company encourage feedback? Does the company have an open door policy? What kind of challenges has the company faced during the last year? What kind of challenges are there in the group? How does the company address employee issues? Every organization has its share of “challenges”. An organization that has a continuous desire for improvement will answer the questions honestly. Candidates have ideas as well and may just provide another angle of insight.
Click here to ask that question about the HR related issue you’ve always wanted the answer to.